Tuesday, April 2, 2024

‘He Gets Us’ Gets Us Riled Up

During the Super Bowl in February, there were two “He Gets Us” commercials. By the way, the going rate for a 30-second spot during the big football game this year was $7 million. Wow.

If you’re not familiar with the “He Gets Us” campaign, here is a summary from Wikipedia: “‘He Gets Us’ is an American religious advertising campaign…. First launched in 2022, the campaign’s stated goal is to ‘reintroduce people to the Jesus of the Bible’. Its campaigns are designed to cater to younger demographics and religious skeptics via allusions to present-day social movements, with an emphasis on values such as inclusion, compassion, and ‘radical forgiveness’. At least $100 million was initially spent on the campaign, which has included billboards, sponsor placements, and television commercials.”
The first ad broadcast during the Super Bowl this year was titled “Foot Washing.” It showed various images of people having their feet washed, with the foot washers and foot washees representing different groups that generally don’t have much in common. The spot ended with the slogan: “Jesus didn’t teach hate. He washed feet.”

The second ad was titled, “Who Is My Neighbor?” The spot began with that question printed on the screen. Then a series of photos appeared of people who could be described as living on the margins of society. Finally, words appeared, answering the original question, with these three statements: “The one you don’t notice. The one you don’t value. The one you don’t welcome.” 

After those ads ran during the Super Bowl, the Internet lit up with passionate commentary, as people from all sides of the religious and political spectrums weighed in. The “He Gets Us” campaign has been quite controversial since its inception two years ago, and this year’s Super Bowl was no different. 

On the one hand, many traditional and conservative Christians criticized the ads for ignoring a key aspect of the Christian life: repentance and personal transformation. Since the brief ads did not discuss the need for repentance, it was claimed the ads justified certain sins. 

One commentator said the foot-washing ad “seems to imply that Jesus was cool with all kinds of sinful behavior. He wasn’t. He didn't go hangout with prostitutes or any other sinner because he accepted the choices they made, he did it to inspire them to change.”

Others claimed the ads were trying to “sell Jesus to leftists” and to use Jesus to “promote a political movement.” 
On the other hand, secular progressives have criticized the “He Gets Us” campaign ever since it began in 2022, mostly because they dislike religion in general and Christianity in particular. Any mention of Jesus in public sets these folks’ teeth on edge. 

Also, many people have criticized some of the donors who have been funding the “He Gets Us” program because those financial backers also support groups that promote traditional marriage and the idea that there are only two genders and neither is “changeable.”

So, the bottom line is this: the “He Gets Us” ads during the Super Bowl offended a lot of people. But were the ads really offensive, or do we live in a particular time and place where everybody gets offended by everything? 

When you are trying to target your message to people who are young, unchurched, and skeptical about organized religion, is hitting them over the head with a Bible and calling them sinners an effective strategy? Is it possible these people have no interest in religious faith precisely because church-going folks have been relentlessly judgmental toward them all their lives?

Just asking.

I’m no theologian, but it seems to me anytime the “name above all names” — that is, Jesus — is mentioned in a positive light in the public arena, that’s a good thing. 
If some young, disillusioned person becomes curious about Jesus after watching the Super Bowl ads, then later on there can be time for repentance and personal transformation. After all, it’s impossible to go from complete ignorance of Christ to vibrant faith in 30 seconds. 

The first step of evangelization is to plant seeds of faith. Maybe a potentially fruitful seed is the simple message that “Jesus gets us.” 

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